St. Martin's, March 2004, 23.95, 272 pp.
She was a famous Broadway director, well known and respected, who took a sabbatical to write her own play Traders which won a Tony and was nominated for an Oscar when it was made into a film. At age fifty-four, she was recruited by Glenn Yeats, who founded and is now president of Desert Arts college, two hours noth of LA, to be the chair of the theatre department. One day when she went to get her car tinted, she met twenty-six year old Tanner Griffin and immediately saw his star potential.
While she coached him in acting they become lovers and together they put the college on the map. On the last day of the production of Traders, Claire hosts a cast party and a going away party for Tanner who has signed up to act in a movie in Hollywood. The party is a smashing success but when most of the people call it a night, Hollywood producer and screenwriter Spencer Wallace is found dead in Claire's swimming pool. Tests show he was poisoned and probably was pushed into the pool and circumstantial evidence points to Claire as the suspect although there were many other people at the party who wanted him dead. Her own Claire once again starts her own investigation with the stakes being the restoration of her good name and finding out who the perpetrator is who is trying to frame her.
Michael Craft, the author of the fascinating Mark Manning series has another winning, although totally different in tone and content, series to his credit. Claire Gray proves you're never too old for romance or a career change. She knows her strengths and there is no false modesty about her yet the audience will notice that at rare and unexpected times, she has moments of vulnerability which makes the reader like her all the more. DESERT SPRING is a sophisticated and entertaining amateur sleuth novel.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner